Editor’s Note: Written by staff writer Steve Fini
The Eagles may be mathematically alive for a playoff spot, but let’s face it–the season is over. The once inconceivable descent to a top-5 pick in April’s NFL Draft is becoming more likely as each loss mounts.
Fans will be pining for a franchise-changing player. Since Andy Reid took over in 1999, the Eagles have only had two top ten draft picks–Donovan McNabb in 1999 (second overall) and Corey Simon in 2000 (sixth overall). So while the team’s draft performance in the first round under Reid has been mediocre at best, he hasn’t had the opportunity to take a player that high in over a decade.
Based on the Eagles’ needs, let’s look at what might do with a pick in the top-third of the draft.
Needs: offensive Line, defensive line, linebacker, wide Receiver, defensive Back, quarterback
This will be a deep draft in general at several positions, but offensive line is littered with talent.
Matt Kalil (USC), Jonathan Martin (Stanford), and Reily Reiff (Iowa), could all go within the first ten picks. Each player is a big, strong and athletic left tackle with a great deal of experience in pro-stye offense. Kalil and Martin also have experience blocking for a future NFL caliber quarterback and know the importance of pass protection. Kalil is a top 3 pick, Martin should land somewhere between 3-7, and Reiff could be a fringe top ten pick depending on his workouts.
Defensive line is a little down this year in terms of top ten talent. However, Brandon Thompson (Clemson) is a fringe top ten defensive tackle. He’s a run stuffing tackle with not a lot of pass rush ability–the type of player the Eagles generally don’t consider. There is only one sure fire defensive lineman in the top ten for 2012. That is Quinton Coples (UNC). He’s a top five to seven pick with a lot of upside. He’s big (6’6, 280lbs), and can play both the run and create pressure. If Brandon Graham ever emerges, or if the Eagles are down on Mike Patterson after his bad showing this year, a guy like Coples could be an attractive option.
The only linebacker to speak of that might fit into the top ten would be Vontaze Burfict (ASU). He’s a middle linebacker in the Ray Lewis mold. He’s physical, has great instincts, and is a vicious tackler. He’s had a problem with personal foul penalties his throughout his collegiate career, which has raised questions about his overall intelligence. Don’t look for the Eagles to take him if they are picking this high.
Wide receiver is another position that has some great talent in the top part of the draft. If the Eagles retain DeSean Jackson, then this isn’t happening. But if they let him walk…Justin Blackmon (Oklahoma State) and Alshon Jeffrey (South Carolina) are both future number one receivers. Blackmon (6’1, 205lbs) is in the mold of Terrell Owens with great hands, athleticism, and the way he attacks the football. Jeffrey (6’4, 230lbs) is a monster with good speed, great leaping ability and he’s ultra-physical. Both of these receivers possess something that the Eagles don’t have at the position right now–size.
Two defensive backs that could go in the top ten are Morris Claiborne (LSU) and Dre Kirkpatrick (Alabama). While Claiborne (6’0, 190 lbs) is more of a shut down corner, Kirkpatrick (6’3, 195) is the “physical freak”. Claiborne should be the first corner taken, but Kirkpatrick will fly up draft boards once his workouts commence. The problem for the Eagles is that neither of these guys are safeties. Unless either of these guys can prove to be future stars at safety or corner, don’t look for the Eagles to go their way.
If Reid stays, given his draft history, I think defensive end Quinton Coples would be the selection. He fits a need for the Eagles and gives them something they don’t currently have; a run stuffing defensive end that can move inside on passing downs.